You’re standing in a field harvesting tobacco. Your sweaty, tired, and you reek of tobacco. The cuts on your back ache as it gets seared by the sun’s rays. Nostalgic, you reflect upon how you end up 5,830 miles away from home. Everything happened so fast, last time you remembered you were with your own people. Then men of different color ruined everything you knew and loved, they killed your weaker siblings and parents, they kidnapped only the fittest men and women of your village, and they burned the town you lived in. They have hand held weapons that release a loud sound and iron balls, and you’ve got sharpened sticks. So you cultivated hatred against them. But you knew that someone like you could not do anything about it. So you followed everything they said and let yourself get abused. Now that you’re somewhere else you hold on to this one and only fact: you’re a black slave.
That was how it was back in the 17th century. It was depressing, it was miserable, it was slavery. Such a heinous word: slavery. Nevertheless, it gripped the entire world in an iron fist, tearing families apart, destroying tribes, and it devastated countries- specially Africa. It’s hard to believe such a thing would happen. Though without it, America wouldn’t be Obama’s.
Location: The Americas Date: 1619-1850
Slavery is the condition in which a person can be bought, sold, and owned, classifying them as property.
Slavery started way back than you expected. In 2100-2050 B.C. people had records of slavery in early settlements and civilizations, like the Sumerians, Romans, Ancient Greeks, Egyptians, even Israelites had slaves (though they had laws about it). It hasn’t ended until 2007, when Mauritania makes slavery a crime.
There are many ways of being a slave back in 1860 B.C.
- DEBT BONDAGE– When people are in debt and can’t pay it, they pay by service. The duration of the labor depends on how much the debtor owes the person.
- FINANCIAL PROBLEMS– If a family had many members and can’t provide for the entire family, they give their kids away to slavery.
- BORN A SLAVE, ALWAYS A SLAVE- Unless they are given manumission by their master.
- INDENTURE- A contract in which a person, usually a child, is bind to a skilled employer, usually in a contract, for the child to be an apprentice.
- FORCED LABOR- When people are kidnapped and forced to do productive labor.
- PRISONER OF WAR- People have rights to have the prisoners of war as slaves. When war rages, and the winning tribe, association, or country defeats the other they may either kill them all or take as prisoners to serve as slaves. This kind of slavery is occasionally witnessed in the Old Testament of the Bible.
There are three types of slavery: Unfree labor, bonded labor, and chattel slavery.
- Unfree labor is slavery “in which a person is obliged to work against his or her will and a person’s ability to work productively is under the complete control of another person.”. You may call it forced labor too.
- Bonded labor (debt slavery) is a pledge of service to pay a debt or obligation.
- Chattel slavery is the one defined above. In chattel slavery, people are treated like chattel (property)
Believe it or not the Bible has records and laws for slavery (found in Exodus, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy). In Genesis, Joseph was sold to Ishmaelites by his brothers for 20 shekels of silver (8 oz or 0.2 kg) and was brought to Egypt (Genesis 37:12-36). So why did God allow Hebrews and foreigners alike have slaves if it’s wrong? It turned out the Bible has a different way of slavery that was legal. It was not based on color or belittlement. It was merely a kind of employment. God created laws and rights for both Hebrew and foreign servants. It showed that He cared for them as well.
Here are Terms and Conditions for slave and master
- A servant serves his/her master for six years. On the seventh year he shall go free, unless he declare his love for his/her master. His/Her master shall take him to the door post and pierce his ear with an awl. Then he/she will be a servant for life. (Exodus 21:2-6)
- If a father sells his daughter, she is not to go free like menservants do. But if she displeases her master, he must let her be redeemed. (Exodus 21:7-11)
- Anyone who kidnaps his kin and either sells him or is caught with him MUST be put to death. (Exodus 21:16)
- If a man hits his servant and sustains injury (knocks out his tooth), his servant must go free to compensate for the injury (or tooth). (Exodus 21:26-27
- All slaves will be freed on the Year of Jubilee. (Leviticus 25:10)
(To find out more of this Terms and Conditions read Exodus 21:2-11, 16, Leviticus 25:8-55, and Deuteronomy 15:18)
Slavery not only existed in the Old Testament, it still persisted until the New Testament. Evidence can be found in Ephesians 6:5-9, Colossians 3:22-25, Colossians 4:1.
In these verses Paul talked about how slaves and masters should treat each other. In Ephesians, he talked about how slaves were to obey their masters just how they obey Christ. While in both Colossians, he talked about how slaves were supposed to be sincere in obeying their masters, to work not for men but for God. It also adds that masters should treat their slaves fairly.
Slavery was common in the Roman Empire in Paul’s day. Philemon had a slave named Onesimus. Onesimus had run away from his master. Paul met him and taught him the Gospel. Now he is sending Onesimus back to his master. He sends this letter along with him. He points out to Philemon that he will now have Onesimus back as a brother in Christ. The New Testament does not specifically forbid slavery. Neither did the apostles command that owners of slaves must free them. However, the principles of Christ, when applied, will cause people to give up slaves. If one would not want to be a slave of another person, he will not make another person his slave. This is the application of the “Golden Rule” (Matthew 7:12).
For clarification, the Bible did not approve “racial” slavery, or the slavery because of skin color and race. THAT was totally wrong! Instead, the bible approved maidservants/menservants (with decent wages, accommodation, debts paid, etc.). In short, racial slavery was wrong but slavery under the Mosaic Law (laws written by Moses through God) is right.
All things come to an end in some point; slavery is no exception. It was not a work of one man, nor was it the work of a group of men, but it was the work of one Great God (using men as vehicles). People like William Wilberforce, John Newton, Harriet Tubman, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Frederick Douglas, and Abraham Lincoln all joined forces to abolish slavery. They led riots, helped slaves to escape, protested, wrote books that oppose slavery, they had speeches to approve anti-slavery, until in 1833 slavery was abolished in United Kingdom. And in 1865, U.S.A followed.
The “lighter” side
There is always a lighter side of everything, be it the force, yin, or the moon. Still, something as dark as slavery does eventually show its light side, and it did. It brought some of the (great) Africans and Americans closer to God. Africa was opened for the missionaries to share the Gospel too and it revealed the hidden talents and wonders of the Africans and Africa. Though it was undeniably inflicted loss in both parties, it turned out to be for good. America got their economics in good shape and the Africans gained knowledge and popularity.
As surprising as it sounds, slavery still exists in the present day. Though it won’t appear as blacks in a single file chained together. It shows in a rather imperceptible way. It is called modern slavery. Modern slavery takes in many forms like, human trafficking, forced marriages, terrorism, and child labor. We are unaware though of the slavery that engulfs us until now. It takes the form of unsuspected things, mostly in our everyday lives.
- Money: Mammon. Material wealth. Money has
devoured mankind for centuries. Money is important, and we all can accept that, it’s needed to have a house, good education, and more. But people have taken obsessions with it, they work so they would have lots of money, sacrificing their health, relationship with family, etc. In turn, they would use the money to pay for hospital bills. So making money your goal in life is not a good idea. Besides the Bible says: “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.” Matthew 6:24
- Vices & Pornography: Ever since cigarettes and drugs were introduced (which was in 1850’s) mortal men were hooked. Hooked to the extent of risking their lives. Drugs and cigarettes have a big effect on health. They may cause mental instability and lung cancer. And it isn’t just drugs or cigarettes that people get addicted to, there is also people who are addicted to alcohol and pornography. The Bible advises: “For everything in the world- the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and boasting of what he has and does- comes not from the Father but from the world” 1 John 2:16.
- Poverty: 80% of the world live in poverty (on less than $10 a day). So technically, 80% of the world are enslaved by poverty. They are enslaved because it hinders them from living a good life, having a job, or having good education.
- And Other worldly things: The Bible warns us many times to keep away from these “worldly things”. What are they anyway? Well, worldly things are those of this world: gadgets, social media, cars, (bad) relationships and many more. The Bible explains that we should say no to ungodliness and worldly passions (Titus 2:12). These worldly things take our focus on God. It is the desire of our flesh (sinful nature), and that enslaves us. Titus says that we should stay self-controlled over it. “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world- the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and boasting of what he has and does- comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.” 1 John 2:15-17
Enslavement doesn’t bind you in chains, but anything that keeps you, constricts you, renders you, or limits your “space” from living your life and being closer to God, is considered as enslavement (Colossians 2:8). We are bound to these things, so we better be free of these or else we will be succumb to it (Colossians 3:1-11).
“My hand was restrained and I’m glad that it was, for the years between have shown me that it does a man no good to be until he knows how to live, how to walk in step with God.”
-Amos Fortune : Free man-
For me, being a servant of Christ, is the best kind of slavery. Accepting Him as my Lord and Savior, honoring and serving Him, and receiving His gracious SALVATION and the privilege to be with Him in paradise is the best reward I can get. And one day when He returns and present myself to Him; I will hear Him say these words I’ve been yearning to hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
You’re now sitting in a rocking chair, tobacco days over. You have a wife, kids, and grandchildren. You have a cozy cabin, and have saved enough money in the future. The scars are still on your back, it didn’t remind you of the torture you obtained, but it reminded you that God turns harm into good. Africa is a fragment of your memory. Besides, you’re healthy and fit, your family is here, you have God in your heart and so does your family, what more can you wish for? You forgave your oppressor and thanked Abraham Lincoln and more importantly God. As you sat there thinking about your family and Africa, you hold on to a single fact: You’re a freeman.
Answers in Genesis.org